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Ofsted consults on plans to inspect councils with poor schools

By Richard Johnstone | 5 February 2013

Ofsted today published details of its planned inspection regime for English local authority education departments whose schools are under-performing.

Under the proposed framework, now open for consultation, the examinations will focus on authorities where a higher-than-average percentage of schools are not yet judged ‘good’, or are not improving quickly enough. The watchdog uses a four-point scale to determine the quality of schools – ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

A number of indicators would be used to determine whether council inspections were required, such as the proportion of children attending a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school, as well as attainment levels across the local authority.

The inspections were first announced by chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw last month. He said that it was ‘unacceptable’ that 30% of schools, educating 2.3 million children, fell short of being ‘good’ on Ofsted’s rating system.

Wilshaw said that the programme would begin in Derby, where only around 40% of primary and secondary pupils are in schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

During inspections, Ofsted will consider the effectiveness of the ‘corporate and strategic leadership’ of school improvement plans in each authority, as well as the effectiveness of any interventions. Councils will also be examined on the extent to which they act as ‘brokers’, locating support for schools and other providers, and how they use existing funding to drive improvement. 

After each inspection, Ofsted will simply state whether the authority’s education and training functions are being met. Those deemed not to be providing an acceptable standard could be scrutinised again.

‘If England has any pretentions to be a world-leading education system, we must have higher ambitions and be absolutely committed as a nation to doing something about the wide variations in standards across our country,’ Wilshaw said.

Responding to the announcement, the chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, David Simmonds, said councils wanted to be able to intervene more quickly in underperforming schools. However, they were prevented from doing so as a result of reforms to give schools greater independence and reduce what was perceived as council interference, he added.

‘As more schools become academies and move away from local authority maintained status, council leaders are concerned it will become impossible for the performance of such a large number of schools to be monitored from the centre. Without local intervention, poor performance will not be spotted early enough and educational standards may slip.

‘We agree with Ofsted's call for more to be done but, rather than extra inspections of councils, we believe pupils would benefit far more from government untying the hands of local authorities so they can get on with quickly and decisively helping the worst performing schools without first having to negotiate swathes of red tape and bureaucracy.’




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